Anger over abusive Refugee NGO “METAdrasi” awarded $2 million

(photo: Refugee youth at Somos camp, Greek Islands)

By Mohammed Harun Arsalai

It is with great displeasure that we share the news that METAdrasi, a refugee NGO with a track record of ranging from physical abuse to harassment, intimidation to mismanagement has received USD 2 Million as a prize from The Conrad Hilton Foundation. The Conrad Hilton Foundation was informed about METAdrasi by local activists as well from psychologist Lyla Schwartz, who has worked closely with refugees in Greece. The claims / allegations about abuses from METAdrasi and was brushed off by the foundation.

Speaking with Afghan refugees and Afghan activists on the ground in Greece, we confirmed Schwartz assertion that METAdrasi is both negligent and inept and shouldn’t have been gifted such a large sum of money, especially at a time when refugee camps mirror open air prisons, overcrowded and becoming increasingly dangerous due to lack of supplies and desperation of camp residents.

At this very moment, refugee support projects and squats across Athens are being raided and refugees being either detained or forced to sleep on the streets, children and infants included.

The money going to METAdrasi should instead be given to those most in need, or at least decided on by refugees and refugee support workers collectively.

The Conrad Hilton Foundation hasnt just made a mistake, but has helped to endanger refugees in Greece by funding METAdrasi. We will update as the situation develops. For now, we at Documenting Afghanistan ask that those involved in refugee support share this information among your networks and contact the Conrad Hilton Foundation to demand they stop funding METAdrasi immediately and reallocate funds to those individuals or organizations most in need.

The following is the letter sent to METAdrasi by psychologist Lyla Schwartz followed by the response from the Conrad Hilton Foundation:

20 AUGUST 2019

Dear Mr. Laugharn

It is with great concern that I learned that Metadrasi was successful in being selected by the Conrad Hilton Foundation recently for the $2 million Hilton Humanitarian Prize. Since 2016 I have been engaged in my capacity as a psychologist with vulnerable minors that Metadrasi was tasked with providing care for, I witnessed or was made aware of a multitude of highly irregular, unscrupulous and unethical practices, which are particularly worrying given that the organisation’s beneficiaries are vulnerable, unaccompanied minors with uncertain immigration status. Volunteers as well as lawyers working on the cases of minors under Metadrasi’s care have concurred with me. This made the news of the organisation’s success with securing such a large amount of funding both surprising and worrisome.

Among the issues raised were: the physical abuse of minors by caretakers, inaccurate legal information to the children ( informing minors that they could be reunited with their parents in Greece when this was not the case), wittingly delaying children’s cases through mismanagement, lack of coordination with the government, not promoting family reunification or filing cases on behalf of minors, not filing the cases of missing children with the relevant authorities, and a lack of management of the shelters leading to violence and harassment against minors.

Furthermore, of the 25 boys whom I worked with, all but one fled their home countries and were smuggled to Greece illegally and unsafely. I made efforts to get Metadrasi to register and find guardians for them. But due to Metadrasi’s lack of will or case management systems, this process took many months, and many of these minors were left to fend for themselves on the streets. Myself and other associates made private housing arrangements but Metadrasi were not aware or interested in this. Another concern is that Metadrasi do not have any extension or referral systems in place and once a minor turns 18 years of age, they are removed from facilities and informed that nothing more can be done for them.

One minor whom I provided psychological care to reported that Metadrasi: “gave us expired food, they did not provide clothing and basic resources. I asked to be a part of the transfer program but they engaged in favouritism and selected the boys they wanted to go to Portugal. When I was sick they would not bring me to the doctor.”

Another minor, reports that: “I had nothing when I was transferred to Athens and I still have nothing three years later. When I turned 18 they no longer provided help and have not reunited me with my brother who is my only family member in all of Europe.”

While we acknowledge the great work of the Conrad Hilton Foundation in supporting frontline organisations engaged in critical humanitarian interventions around the globe, we feel that Metadrasi has proven itself an unworthy recipient of such an honour and we welcome further discussion between your foundation and stakeholders such as myself in addition to former beneficiaries of Metadrasi to ensure that such large and generous funding endowment is not wasted on a poorly management and unethical organisation.

Yours Sincerely,

Lyla Schwartz

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/aug/19/greek-ngo-helping-child-refugees-wins-2m-humanitarian-prize

RESPONSE FROM CONRAD HILTON FOUNDATION

Dear Lyla,

Thank you for your message regarding the 2019 Hilton Humanitarian Prize recipient. We take the information you shared very seriously. While the details you shared have not been what we have observed in reviewing the organization, we will most certainly look into this.

Kindest regards,

Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

Marshall Stowell​

Vice President Communications

Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

Phone: 818.540.0557

Office Address: 1 Dole Drive, Westlake Village, CA 91362Mailing Address: 30440 Agoura Road, Agoura Hills, CA 91301

hiltonfoundation.org

Follow Documenting Afghanistan on Twitter: @DocAfg

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